New this week from Solitary Watch:
• Solitary Watch Director Jean Casella looks at the response from anti-solitary advocates to President Biden’s Executive Order issued last month, which gives the Attorney General (AG) six months to submit a report on progress towards ending long-term solitary confinement. In a press release, the Federal Anti-Solitary Task Force (FAST) questioned the impact that the AG’s report would have and noted the lack of substantive action by the administration on this issue thus far, commenting that “As it now stands,” the AG’s progress report “would be very short.”
Our pick of other news about solitary confinement:
• NPR reports that in the Stafford Creek Corrections Center in Washington, staff are requiring all individuals to either sign a waiver relieving staff of any responsibility if they contract COVID-19, or quarantine in a solitary confinement cell as ‘treatment.’ To date, 568 incarcerated people and 41 staff members at the facility have contracted the virus. No legal representation was offered before people were requested to sign the waivers.
• Last week, the Marshall Project and NPR reported on deadly conditions at the federal prison in Thomson, Illinois, describing a “pressing threat of violence from cellmates as well as brutality at the hands of staff.” Incarcerated individuals in Thomson’s’s Special Management Unit recounted being held two people to a tiny cell in “double-celled solitary confinement,” and being shackled and pepper sprayed as a form of control. According to NPR, members of congress have now called for an investigation of the prison, citing the five deaths at the facility since 2019.
• CT Insider interviews Barbara Fair, a prison reform advocate whose efforts led to the recent passage of the PROTECT ACT in Connecticut. Fair insists that there is more work to be done, including a ban on strip searches in Connecticut facilities. She says, “I gave up strip searches so we could get something passed. [Governor Lamont] knows that this is just the beginning.”
• Calexico Chronicle reports that a coalition of faith leaders and community activists from all around California gathered on May 31 to hold a prayer vigil outside of the Imperial Regional Detention Facility, shouting, “Shut it down.” The facility holds people in ICE detention, and conditions are dire: “unsanitary housing conditions, inadequate medical care and retaliatory detainment practices,” including solitary confinement.
• WisPolitics reports on worsening conditions in Wisconsin’s Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake Schools youth prisons, describing heavy reliance on solitary confinement amidst a steady increase in the number of young people incarcerated there. “We should start by increasing access to community-based services and diversion programs to meet youth’s developing needs through positive support rather than traumatic and ineffective imprisonment,” commented Kate Burdick, a senior attorney at Juvenile Law Center.